News of the World (2020?)
Dir: Paul Greengrass
Who is this about?
Tom Hanks is a Captain for the second time this Awards season, a rank he often portrays but which rarely goes smoothly for him. In this case, he’s playing Jefferson Kidd who a Captain in the Confederate Army and now supports himself by riding from town to town and reading a curated selection of interesting news stories to the townspeople. Not only is he good at reading the news, but he can also read a room, grabbing the attention of the gathered crowds, making both friends and enemies along the way.
When is it set?
It’s 1870, just a few years after the war, though Kidd hasn’t returned home. There’s a sense that he doesn’t feel right about some of the things he did in the war, so has been ashamed to return.
What does he find?
As he travels from one town to the next, he comes across a young girl (played by Helena Zengel) who has recently been recaptured from the Kiowa tribe, who took her from her family years ago. She speaks Kiowa, no English, though was raised speaking German but seems to have little memory of it and certainly no desire to leave the Kiowa. Zengel is incredible, much of her performance is non-verbal, she’s giving intense looks that say more than enough. When she speaks, it’s mostly in Kiowa which she was taught by a tribe member and though I have no point of reference to know if she’s good at it, she makes it seem very natural and convincing.
Where are these unlikely companions going?
As she was on the way to being returned to her next of kin, the soldier who was taking her was murdered, so begrudgingly Captain Kidd ends up taking on this task, though it becomes increasingly complicated as the two of them bond and approach their destination.
How is the film put together?
With the settings, visual style, and many aspects of a western, this film has some of the best production design and cinematography I’ve seen in the genre. There’s also superb sound, I watched it in my home cinema room and the immersive nature of the surround sound was a perfect example of how a sound mix should be. Narratively, it’s far more complicated than I might’ve expected, with nuanced, complex and powerfully portrayed characters, whose emotional journeys are set up gently throughout the film, ready for a hefty final act that has a lot to do yet makes perfect sense because of how well everything about these characters has been developed.
Why is it nominated for Academy Awards?
The film has gained four Academy Award nominations for this weekend’s Oscars, for the score, cinematography, production design and sound, all of which it’s clear to see why. This is a film that would have been good to see in the cinema, it’s a throwback to the sweeping vistas of the greatest westerns, with a more enjoyable and complex storyline than most, a beautifully emotive and cinematic experience that I enjoyed being immersed in.